Thursday, July 31, 2014



There’s no escaping a hungry crowd.
Even in deserted places there will be no hiding;
they find him.
To be fair, in our story, it was the disciples
who articulated the need for food.
Maybe the crowd has already
had its metaphorical hunger

Jesus fed me once.
I was hungry; for something
I couldn’t even name.
A spiritual something, an answer,
perhaps, to my bewilderment,
my anger,
my uncertainty.
At least, I think it was Jesus.

Dining on his story
I caught glimpses of hope,
along with tracings of grace.
These intimations
proved food enough to satisfy,
and in time, to value
both the uncertainty
and the anger.

© Ken Rookes 2014.

Monday, July 28, 2014

The five thousand painting

Feeding the Five Thousand
Eularia Clarke's Feeding the Five Thousand, a quirky fusion of Stanley Spencer and Beryl Cook, features a fish-and-chip picnic – the hands of a preacher, resting on a pulpit, being the only clue to the spiritual setting. Indeed many of the works address their subjects obliquely; note-cards reveal an evident working-out of doubt or of highly-personalized abstractions of Christianity.

Feeding the multitudes. Allabout us?

"This passage is echoing the Eucharist because the Eucharist leads to the feeding of the multitudes for Christians.  We are literally to make table in the midst of the community and feed people.  This uniquely Christia n understanding of mission is tied into the Gospel. We are to feed their minds and their bodies. And, we are to do it out in the world.  

The church can be so very narcissistic sometimes, thinking that it is all about us! The reality is this is all about the world and our call to be agents of feeding in it.  We are the new Eucharistic symbol that is to literally feed people.

To flip this around means that we are completely out of sync with the narrative story and in some ways let off the hook for doing the right thing in the midst of a very private gathering and failing our mission as Christians."

Give it a go!

People laugh at John and his “Come on, don’t let it beat you. You can do it!” approach, but it gets results. The football team he coached improved greatly and won the Grand Final twice. He is an encourager and there are times when we all need encouraging.
Sometimes we forget how human Jesus was! He had visited his home town where the people took offense at his teaching simply because they knew his parents, brothers and sisters. They didn’t believe in him. They had no faith in his abilities and this indicates that they didn’t think much of themselves either. How could someone who they knew, who had grown up in their community be wise and do the kind of things Jesus did. In thinking this way, and discounting Jesus, they were putting themselves down as well. It must have been discouraging for Jesus. We are told he couldn’t do much for them because of their lack of faith in themselves as well as Jesus.

After he heard about John the Baptist’s death, Jesus went away by  himself but when the crowds got wind of where he was going, they walked around the lake and were already waiting when he arrived. How his heart must have sunk when he saw them. But he took pity on them and tended to their needs, curing those who were ill. When evening came the disciples suggested the people be sent away to find food for themselves. But Jesus said to the disciples, “They do not need to go away; you give them something to eat.” How would you respond if Jesus said this to you? Would you have enough faith in yourself to give it a go?
REv Julianne Parker (full sermon on sermons page)

Monday, July 21, 2014

mustard seed

The parable of the Mustard seed

The Good news

The way we see God, others and ourselves is through the lenses of our culture, how we have been taught to see. Someone once asked God why God had sent a son, not a daughter to show God to us. God’s reply seemed to be that God’s daughter has come a million times only no one has ever recognised her because she was a woman.
In the Gospel reading set for today, we have a number of small illustrations of the kingdom of heaven. The final one in Mat 13:52 says, “Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like the master of a household who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.” Have we in the church been guilty of just going along with the old and been too reluctant to use the new? Could this be why some many of the younger generations no longer have time for the church? We are too attached to the old?

The Good News is that this passage suggests there is new available for our use, new ways of seeing and valuing every person, daughters and women as well as sons and men. People without children as well as those with them are blessed by God in different ways. We have the assurance in Romans that all things work together for good and that nothing can separate us for the love of God which is ours in Christ Jesus. We can encourage our scribes to bring out the new for us to embrace as part of the kingdom of heaven for us all.
Rev Julianne Parker
(see sermons page for full sermon)

The opposite

The opposite of the kingdom of heaven
is that loss of spirit,
that diminution of hope,
that dark emptiness,
where the possibilities
of surprise and generosity
have been forgotten.
No seeds grow,
the birds make no nests,
and no one searches for pearls.

© Ken Rookes 2014

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

A parable about ambiguity

"At heart, this parable isn’t about the nature of evil and provides little material for constructing a coherent theodicy (if there even is such a thing). Rather, I think this parable is about ambiguity. Yes, the sower planted with good seeds. Yes, there are now weeds strewn among the wheat that puts the ideal harvest the sower had imagined at risk. Ideally, the servants could just rip out the weeds, but the sower knows that to tear out the weeds now risks ruining the maturing wheat as well. And so the sower must wait, living with both the wheat and the weeds until the day of harvest when they may be separated in due time.
How often do we not also face similar dilemmas? If not with wheat and weeds (although there may be a few gardeners in your congregation who sympathize with the sower!), then with a multitude of other difficult choices:
like between getting a job to support the family or staying at home to spend more time with the family;
or between supporting someone who consistently struggles at work and pulls the quality of your team down or firing that person;
or between choosing the best school you’ve been accepted to or one that is more affordable;
or between two different treatment options in responding to a grave illness;
or between staying in your current call where things are comfortable or choosing to move on to newer, but unknown, pastures;
or between giving into peer pressure because it just plain sucks to be left out or choosing to stick to your values and risk isolation;
Do you see what I mean, dear Partner? Our lives are littered with situations where there is no clear or easy answer. And yet we rarely talk about these things in church. Maybe we don’t know what to say. Or maybe we ourselves aren’t quite sure how the faith relates to this. But I hear in this parable Jesus’ promise that in ambiguous, challenging situations we have the promise that, in the end, God will sort things out."

Monday, July 14, 2014


© Ken Rookes 2014 


It is too neat; this allegory-parable
of judgement, burning weeds and
the furnaces of hell.
It purports to be the words
of the itinerant teacher called Jesus.
Perhaps it is;
doesn’t make it right, though.
Does that shock you?
Feel free to pray for my soul
if it makes you feel better.

Too neat;
feeding the smug self-righteousness
of those who know themselves to be on the inside.
We are all weeds; we are all wheat.
There is no inside,
there is no outside.
We are the causes of sin,
we are the evildoers,
and yet it is not always so,
need not always be so.

May the righteous indeed shine like the sun;
let us all be reborn into truth.
And let the children of the kingdom
shine with love, with humility,
with justice and with grace.

Relax and leave the weeding to me

For those of us who have been brought up to believe that weeding is an honourable duty, an absolute necessity and that a weed free garden is a virtue, such a statement seems almost sacrilegious, if not insane.  Surely the sensible thing to do is to get rid of weeds as soon as possible. They rob the soil, smother the legitimate plants and harbor pests

It comes as a surprise to us to hear that we may do better with those we don’t want in our midst than we would do if we tried to get rid of them.  Those we regard as mere weeds in society may be important companion plants in God’s gracious judgement, as precious as wheat.  It is made quite clear in the story that we are not in the position to judge the insiders from the outsiders, those who belong and those who do not, those who have a worth and those who are worthless, a fact that we are reminded of in the story of Jacob. It is not good to assume we are the wheat and the others are the weeds. God may see it differently.

Sometimes it feels a risk to let all things grow together, but God appears to like risks.  Why else did God choose Noah, Abraham, Sarah Jacob, Moses David, etc.  How do you allow those whom you believe to be wrong to grow along side you and those whom you love?  When my older son was fourteen, we were asked to take a fifteen year old boy who had been in trouble with the police, into our home. The request felt like we had been asked to transplant a weed into our crop. It took us so long to decide that by the time we said yes, they had found somewhere else for him.

We are just beginning to appreciate the benefits of diversity in bioculture and becoming aware of the dangers of monoculture. Today, in the Uniting Church around Australia, multiculturalism is being celebrated. May we, too, give thanks for diversity, enjoy being part of it and encourage others to be true to themselves as they grow around us. May God bless you all as Jacob was blessed by God’s words, “Know that I am with you and will keep you safe wherever you go.” In line with the parable, Christ has added to this, “Relax, and leave the weeding to me!”

Rev Julianne Parker (full sermon n sermons page)

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

more favoured by God?

Researchers found that almost all parents have favourites. When asked, they generally said this wasn’t so but when asked who the favourite was, neighbours and other family members consistently named one child. Perhaps this is at the core of all sibling rivalry. We would all like our parents’ attention and recognise the unfairness of one being more favoured.
We had an uncle who greeted us with, “How is my favourite niece today?” We knew he said it to each one of his nieces. That didn’t matter. It always brought a smile to our face. God who loves each one of us as if there were only one to love will help us. The Fruit of the Spirit within us, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control will assist us to not play favourites. Then the seeds of our relationships will flourish, and bear fruit, and the harvest of love and joy will be great.

The story of Esau and Jacob, more than just the part about who was favourite, is troubling in these days when we are encouraged to also look at Biblical stories from the point of view of the underling. Jacob is obviously the one who is more favoured by God, but many may identify more with Esau. Like him, Joan was less attractive than her sister who was frequently described as “a pretty little girl” while Joan was the “tomboy”. Like the descriptions of Esau and Jacob, these assessments were too simplistic. Nothing is ever that black and white.
Rev Julianne Parker (full sermon on sermon page.

Monday, July 7, 2014

parable of the sower wordsearch

The Parable of the Sower - Word Search
Found on 

the sower and the seed

The Parable of the Sower and the Seed (Mark 4: 3-9). Aidan Hart, with Donald Jackson and Sally Mae Joseph, 2002.

Jacob and Esau



I typed “birthright”
into my search engine.
It took me straight to ebay.
There were hundreds of listings.
I restricted myself to auctions
that were ending over the next 24 hours.
Of all the varieties for sale only a couple
involved property, wealth and power;
these are much  in demand,
people hang on to them.
I clicked on a big purple one with gold trim.
The bids were coming in at a fast rate;
my refresh button was unable to keep pace.
For a moment I was tempted.

There were birthrights of many sizes and shapes;
green and blue, mostly.
Quite a few were to do with
truth, courage, generosity and love.
I clicked on one; it was small,
but strangely beautiful. The Starting bid was $13.65,
and there were no current bidders.
“Why not?” I asked myself, and typed in $15.00.
My cursor hovered over the Place bid button,
and then I remembered that I already have one;
back home, in a cardboard box
on a high shelf in the guest room wardrobe.
I’m pretty sure it’s still there.

© Ken Rookes 2014 

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

you did not mourn

We wailed and you did not mourn

The truth, so called,
has become difficult to grasp,
perhaps impossible.
We make do with what we know;
on occasions we remind ourselves
that there may be much more to it
than we can ever conceive.

We hear distant strains,
with rhythms that call to us.
We hesitate, uncertain
of what is being asked,
and frightened.
We choose not to dance.,

We hear groanings,
inconvenient cries
of abandonment and despair.
We are comforted by their distance,
having banished then from our presence.
We cover the sounds quickly
with clever choruses of pleasant songs.

The wails recede;
but refuse to be silent.
They persist to disturb and frighten.
We begin to wonder if, perhaps,
the suffering might be greater
than we can conceive;
but we still choose not to mourn.

© Ken Rookes 2014

Made in the image of God

Emotions, feelings, however you think about them, are part of how we are created in the image of God and so are good. Our culture labels some emotions as negative but they serve a purpose for us. They alert us to the need to reflect on why we are feeling this way. It is how we respond to them that shows ourselves and others how we are living God’s way. It is important for us to develop an awareness of how we are feeling and recognise how others may be feeling, so we can consider an appropriate response. It may be that righteous anger is an okay way to go if it leads to a reasonable outcome. Maybe the cause of our frustration is injustice that we can do something about.
Maybe it would be better if we adapted our expectations, our goals, our timelines, our strengths and weaknesses and our motives. Maybe we can be more encouraging in helping others reach their goals and so suffer less frustration. Maybe we expect too much of others and ourselves. Or maybe we can do it a bit differently.
And maybe it was to people that have loaded themselves with such expectations and have the expectations of others weighing them down, that Jesus was speaking when he said, “Come to me all you who are weary and carrying heavy burdens and I will give you rest.” It is an incredible invitation. So many people are weary. We are tired of war and tired of our politicians being nasty to each other and tired of rich people stealing from the poor and frustrated with new technology. When I was preparing this I Googled frustration and a web site showing frustration with computers, laptops and other IT equipment had had over nine million hits. It was a relief to know I am not alone in this predicament. There are so many expectations placed on people.
Jesus said his yoke was easy and his burden light and that in him we would find rest for our souls. Surely this is Good News with capital letters! Emotions can become a heavy burden and we can become so weary from carrying them that we are unable to work out how to get on with life. They weigh us down. But Paul reasoned it through and brings us the good news that we are not condemned to live weary and weighed down. He talked about his frustration and ended what he was saying by thanking God who rescued him from the dilemma in which he found himself. God living in him enabled him to know what God considered good, what is God’s law. This didn’t prevent him in his natural behaviour from still getting it wrong from time to time. But it did lessen the frustration he felt with himself. He went on to point out that God does not condemn us because the law of the Spirit of God in Christ Jesus gives us life.
Frustrations can stifle our relationships and the readings for today from Hebrew Scripture are about God’s loving care and the joy of good relationships. You may like to read them yourselves sometime.

There is just one other thing to ponder this week. We are made in the image of God and at various times Scripture implies that God feels love, joy, anger and jealousy. Does God become frustrated with us when God’s expectations and hopes for us are not realised? And how might God in Love respond to this frustration?
Rev Julianne Parker (full sermon on sermon page)

The storm

Haiku of stillness After a long day telling stories, parables, Jesus needs a break. Suggests a boat trip. Let us cross the lake; ...